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Reilly and I

- Abstract

LIKE MOST American Jews of my generation, I haven’t had much experience with anti-Semitism. Nor, as I look back, have I ever been very clear in my feelings about it. I grew up during the 1930′s in what is now known as suburbia, and there was, occasionally, something in the air that would be described today as interreligious tension. By the time I was six I had learned to say that the Romans had killed Christ and to react to the name “mocky” by saying “I’m a Jew-and proud of it,” or, if I stood a chance, “Put up your hands when you say that.” But in green and quiet Elmora, nice Jewish children were more likely to encounter winks and snickers than outright abuse, and in a neighborhood where Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish boys were equally caught up in their web of intricate and shifting alliances, there were usually more urgent reasons to get into a fight. I knew why some of my friends’ parents were excessively polite to me, but I also knew-and much more sharply-why my mother was excessively uncomfortable and my father was excessively rude to some of these friends. For anti-Semitism was really a threat to me only in my own home.

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